Human castle


by R. Maramba

Spain should ask UNESCO to grant its tapas an International Cultural Heritage (ICH) status. And it has. By drawing global attention to the importance of safeguarding intangible heritage which, according to UNESCO, is an essential part and repository of cultural diversity and creative expression, UNESCO is insuring better protection for important ICH everywhere in the world.

But is there a need for such protection?

“Unlike tangible heritage,” says Professor of International Law at the University of Siena, Federico Lenzerini,  “ICH is of a markedly dynamic nature. This nature allows ICH persistently to recreate itself in order constantly to reflect the cultural identity of its creators and holders. Such a heritage has the intrinsic capacity to modify and shape its own characteristics in parallel to the cultural evolution of the communities concerned, and is therefore capable of representing their living heritage at any moment. This inherent flexibility – or, in other words, the ‘ephemeral’ character of ICH – makes it particularly vulnerable to being absorbed by the stereotyped cultural models prevailing at any given time.”

Lenzerini warns that “in an age when globalization is virtually uncontrolled, such characterization puts the very identity of peoples in peril of being curtailed and absorbed by the dominant society.” (From  “Intangible Cultural Heritage: The Living Culture of Peoples,” by Federico Lenzerini,  European Journal of International Law: .)

UNESCO, counting on its well-deserved prestige, has taken it upon itself to play the role of the necessary protector. The measures it has taken for the purpose are proving amazingly effective within the inherent limitations of such an undertaking and those of an intergovernmental – as opposed to supranational  –  organization.


The Fascinating Ten Spanish ICH the UNESCO Recognizes

Without counting in the tapas, here are the 10 Intangible Cultural Heritage of Spain:

1. Summer solstice fire festivals in the Pyrenees (ICH status shared with France and Andorra)

2. The Mystery Play of Elche. See video.

3. Irrigators’ tribunals of the Spanish Mediterranean coast: the Council of Wise Men and the Water Tribunal of the plains of Murcia and Valencia respectively

The Patum festival is a series of costume "dances" to the beat of the drums. Fire and pyrothecnics play an important part of the solemn festival

The Patum festival is a series of costume “dances” to the beat of the drums. Fire and pyrotechnics play an important part in the solemn festival

4. Whistled language of the island of La Gomera

5. Human towers

6. Flamenco

7. The Patum of Berga

8. The chant of the Sybil on Majorca

9. The Festivity of ‘la Mare de Déu de la Salut’ of Algemesí. See video

10. Mediterranean diet (ICH status shared with Italy, Greece, Morocco, Portugal, Cyprus and Croatia)


Featured image
 (Human Castle) by Eric Sala &Tania Garcia, CC BY SA 2.5 Generic via Wikimedia Commons
Patum de Bergas by Albert Vilalta, CC BY 2.0 Generic, Flickr